Congress's War On Mad Science

Politics & Current Events, Science, Technology, WTF?

America has long faced stiff competition in the sciences, from Japan, Europe, Russia, and now China and India. But if Kansas Senator Sam Brownback's Human-Animal Hybrid Prohibition Act of 2009 passes, expect our lead in science to vanish:

It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly, in or otherwise affecting interstate commerce:

  1. create or attempt to create a human-animal hybrid;
  2. transfer or attempt to transfer a human embryo into a non-human womb;
  3. transfer or attempt to transfer a non-human embryo into a human womb; or
  4. transport or receive for any purpose a human-animal hybrid.

Under Brownback's bill, the simple creation of new forms of life, even for the noblest of purposes, would be punishable be up to ten years in prison and a fine of one million dollars.  The overall effect on research into forbidden knowledge would be catastrophic.

Lest you call me mad, consider that this law goes far beyond the dark art of forming so-called "human-animal hybrids," and it's not only the Doctor Moreaus of America whose inquiries into advanced biology would be prohibited.  Why entire fields of research would shut down:

The term `human-animal hybrid' means …

a non-human life form engineered such that it contains a human brain or a brain derived wholly or predominantly from human neural tissues.

Yes, under a restrictive reading even the creation of cybernetic organisms would become a crime, not just against the so-called Natural Order, but against the laws of man as well.  And where will it stop?  What will they forbid next?  Mathematical study of the non-Euclidean geometries of space-time? The creation of new life from dead matter? Exploration of the building blocks of matter? Spectacular advances in the field of medicine? Unorthodox theories of cartography? Basic nanotechnological research? Design of autonomous self-replicating machines programmed to relentlessly destroy all life in the universe?

What's worse is that laws of this sort will have no lasting effect.  While the loss of so many great minds would indeed be a tragedy for the American economy, geniuses whose gifts are unappreciated, those whom society calls mad, will simply transfer their researches overseas.  Even in the conventional sciences, America faces a "brain drain."  But those whose lust for knowledge, for power, for conquest!, carries them into that which is forbidden will go overseas, to Transylvania, to uncharted volcanic islands, or to serve the Nazi Hell Creatures Who Live Within The Hollow Earth.

I, for one, decry this attempt to strangle budding sciences in the crib.  Senators such as Sam Brownback, while well-intentioned and obviously lacking for work, may make useful servants to the race of Human-Animal Hybrid Supermen of tomorrow, but they're not qualified to legislate on science, much less on The Things Man Was Not Meant To Know.

I want my country to keep its lead in sciences of all description, so that other nations may tremble when some misunderstood genius cries, "Today America. Tomorrow the world!"

Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Ken  •  Jul 14, 2009 @3:04 pm

    I know that I am stripping the gears of tone here, but there actually are promising lines of research out there incorporating animal DNA and tissue into treatment of human ailments. There are ethical and scientific debates about the boundaries of chimerical research.

    However, Sam Brownback and his ilk are not aiming at such nuance. His language is carefully crafted to make voters think not of cell lines and tissue work, but of freakish human-headed beasts:

    “This legislation works to ensure that our society recognizes the dignity and sacredness of human life,” said Brownback. “Creating human-animal hybrids, which permanently alter the genetic makeup of an organism, will challenge the very definition of what it means to be human and is a violation of human dignity and a grave injustice.”

  2. Patrick  •  Jul 14, 2009 @3:12 pm

    Well thanks Mister Fancypants.

    I'd note that the bill also criminalizes things that are likely to be impossible from now until the end of time, no matter how mad the scientist, such as creating:

    a hybrid human/animal embryo produced by fertilizing a human egg with non-human sperm;

    a hybrid human/animal embryo produced by fertilizing a non-human egg with human sperm;

    By the time we can fertilize a human egg with cat sperm (46 chromosomes to 38), we'll have bigger concerns, such as whether the Second Amendment right to bear arms includes lightsabers, and the legislative ethics of time travel.

  3. Patriot Henry  •  Jul 14, 2009 @4:00 pm

    Bush mentioned the same "human-animal hybrids" in a State of the Union speech.

    I haven't yet seen any such thing.

    Perhaps the politicians know something we don't.

  4. PatrickKelley  •  Jul 14, 2009 @8:15 pm

    I remember when Bush mentioned that in the State of The Union. I think in his case he was warning about where the slippery slope of genetic manipulation could lead, and so was a roundabout way of fighting the movement to overturn his decision on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Maybe that's what Brownback's intention is. Isn't a lot of research done using cells from mice, rats, and pigs, among other things? It has to be something like this, because this is obviously unreasonable fear mongering.

    Of course, I'm just deranged enough I'd love to see a human-animal hybrid. Maybe its the old comic book fan in me. Don't look now, but here comes Snakeman.

  5. Windypundit  •  Jul 14, 2009 @9:31 pm

    I think we'll get lightsabers and manimals before we get time travel. Just sayin'.

  6. Grandy  •  Jul 15, 2009 @5:01 am

    Windypundit, if we are going to get Time Travel, we already have it.

  7. mojo  •  Jul 15, 2009 @11:35 am

    "They called me mad at the Sorbonne! MAD!"

  8. zbeast  •  Jul 28, 2009 @1:58 pm

    I thought all the anti-science people jumped ship when mister bush
    left office.
    So who should one write to complain about this bill.
    Kick the Luddites out.